stinging nettles: harvesting, eating, cooking

stinging nettles in a nutshell

  • They lose their sting in the first 30 seconds of cooking.
  • They have more protein than any other edible plant I know of.
  • They will satisfy my hamburger cravings.
  • Harvest for eating before they are knee high.
  • The seeds and roots have medicinal value.
  • In the fall they can be used to make cordage - especially good for water cordage, like nets (hence the name).
  • Possibly the easiest plant food to dry and save for later

jumping on the stinging nettle train

In 2001 I learned that lots of my animals liked to eat stinging nettles. In looking it up, I found that it was one of the best things they could eat. So good, that I should try to encourage growing it rather than discourage it.

In 2005 I was taking a permaculture design course and watched as people harvested nettles for human consumption. And later ate them. I gotta say that I'm not a big fan of greens, but these were good. Really good!

In 2008 I was at a permaculture event and managed to figure out how to turn the video mode on for my crappy camera as Michael "Skeeter" Pilarski, well known wildcrafter and permaculture instructor, took a group of us on a short walk:

gettin' deeper into nettle land

By that time I was harvesting them and eating them myself every spring. After a while, I got the idea that I wanted to get more video up about nettles. So I actively started thinking about gathering more nettle footage. I thought of my friend Heidi Bohan, author of "The People of Cascadia" and went by her place. She teaches ancestral skills and permaculture all the time, so it was no surprise to find a few of her students there. As we harvested nettles, Heidi cautioned us about things to be concerned with when harvesting nettles. And she talked about how to dry nettles by just putting them in a paper sack. As a grand finale, one of the students, Kristi, ate a nettle leaf raw!

We took the nettles back to Heidi's house and she made a soup with nettles, salmon, camas, bitterroot, seaweed, ozette potato, lady fern fiddlehead, cow parsnip shoots, horsetail and lomatium (biscuit root).

harvesting, preparing, and chowing down

I spent a few days with Jocelyn Campbell of and we tried quite a few different things. In this first video, I spend a fair bit of time showing how Jocelyn harvests and prepares the nettles. And then she prepares what I think is one of the simplest dishes: stinging nettle scramble:

And this next video could be the most important nettle video of all time. Not only does Jocelyn make a delicious nettle lasagna, but her teenage son who is very picky about what he eats, not only liked it, but ate seconds! Proof that nettles aren't just for those folks that seem to enjoy eating grass and sawdust.

money grubbing from 'em

I managed to catch Skeeter out at a farm in 2010 and ... he was intentionally growing a patch of stinging nettles! He talks about the uses and he talks about how much money he gets from this crop: